Trump vs Us, the Amish

As Robert Mueller’s Investigation closes in on Donald J Trump and his merry band of selfish thugs, the Trump machine is hard at work attempting to de-legitimize the Investigator and his Investigation.

Hard at work attempting to convince the public that Trump is not the Villain the evidence may well portray but the Victim of what he  calls a “witch hunt.”

With Trump denouncing the F B I as an organization in “tatters.”

With Fox’s Sean Hannity  branding Mueller, who as the longest serving FBI director after J Edgar Hoover drew bi-partisan praise for his integrity, “a disgrace to the American justice system.”

With top Republicans on Capitol Hill making efforts to de-legitimize and deflect the Investigation, the question is what can we, you and I, do to defeat these efforts?

I thought of the 1985 movie “Witness.”

We can be  Amish!

“Witness” starred Harrison Ford as a Philadelphia policemen who waged a one-man fight to save a young Amish boy from being killed by corrupt Police Department senior officials.

The boy, using the lavatory, had inadvertently witnessed a murder in the lavatory by corrupt police officers. Later, he pointed one of them out to Ford. When the corrupt officers realized Ford was on to them, Ford, the boy, and the boy’s mother fled to the Pennsylvania Amish community for refuge.

The corrupt officers found them and while two of them died in their attempt to kill the “Witness” the third put a gun to the head of the boy’s mother and Ford threw down his own gun in an effort to save their lives.

However, a patriarch of the Amish community had rung the bell which summoned  neighbors for help, and they had come running from their fields and homes. And when the corrupt officer marched Ford, the boy and his mother, out of the shed at gunpoint, he was met by a solid wall of these Amish witnesses.

Ford asked, “what are you going to do, shoot (us all)?”

The corrupt officer surveyed the great phalanx of Amish standing against him and realized it was over for him.

He put down his gun and gave up!

We must be “witnesses” for Mueller and his Investigators, in overwhelming numbers we must show the “corrupt cop” and his henchmen that it’s over, that they cannot win.

There is strength in standing for righteousness. We’ve all seen it in the Civil Rights movement in this Country. And I’ve seen it in a personal experience.

In 1994, a team from the ABC News magazine program “Prime Time Live” found a former Nazi SS Captain named Eric Priebke hiding in Argentina. In a sidewalk interview with me, he explained why he and other Gestapo officers in Rome had shot and killed 335 Italian civilians. Hitler had ordered it and he said he was “just following orders.”

When we put the story on the air, Italy demanded Priebke’s extradition. He was turned over to Italy where a three officer military court tried him for the murders.

Guess what? The Italian judges said they understood why military men had to follow orders and they found Priebke “not guilty.”

But he was never released.

That night, literally hundreds of thousands of Italians in Rome and other cities took to the streets in dramatic protest of the verdict. The Government kept Priebke under arrest and re-tried him in a civilian court which found him guilty and, since Italy has no death penalty for any crime, he was sentenced to life in prison.

We must make our protest to the Trump & Company tactics to escape justice known. We must do it in overwhelming numbers.

Write Congress your opposition to attempts to thwart and derail Mueller’s Investigation. post it on Facebook and other social media. Write and email your friends and associates, by all legal means let the thugs know now that they cannot win (unless the evidence carefully and objectively gathered turns out to be in their favor.)

“I hope you are all Republicans, ” quipped Ronald Reagan as the doctors prepared to remove a bullet from his chest.

“We are all Republicans, today,” replied Dr. Joseph Giordano (a Democrat).

Today, let us all be Amish!

 

 

 

 

 

Trump on Jerusalem – Dangerous Gobbledygook

Having arrived at the point of  a possible thermonuclear showdown with North Korea, Donald J Trump has now turned his attention to blowing up the middle East.

That may be too harsh.  The conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the rise of ISIL terrorism, the Syrian problem, the Kurdish question and any number of other tinder boxes already in one stage or another of explosion can continue to “blow up” the Middle East apart from anything Donald J Trump does.

But what Trump did  today was certainly a huge set back in eventually eliminating another of those tinder boxes, namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What he did sounds so reasonable, almost innocuous but far from it.

He said: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel…Today we finally acknowledge the obvious. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

Reality in that Israel does occupy Jerusalem and claims it as it’s Capital. But that is not a “reality” recognized by the Palestinians and Arab Nations throughout the Middle East. This difference of views is one of the major sticking points that has prevented a peace settlement since the State of Israel was born.

In 1978, at Camp David, President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin took a giant step toward agreeing on a set of Accords as a frame work for an overall peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But disagreements within those accords  continued. One was over a freeze on building new Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Another was the status of the city of Jerusalem.

Begin said Jerusalem was Israel’s Capital, Sadat said Arab interests within at least a portion of the city must be protected (as the Capital of a Palestinian State) and Carter said the United States was not going to side with either position believing that the final status of Jerusalem must be negotiated between the parties.

Ever since, U S policy has been to act as an “honest broker,” helping the parties try to reach agreements on the issues that separated them – including Jerusalem. Sure, over the years the U S has proposed various formulas for the parties to consider as they wished, pointing out where “trade offs” might work, but never taking one side against the other as U S policy.

Until today.

Today Trump did that. Backed Israel on one of the major sticking points.

Or has he?

He also said today: “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, (Bolding added) or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved,”

What?

He says, in effect, I declare that Jerusalem is  the Capital of Israel, lock stock and barrel unless, of course, the parties agree otherwise. Come on, Donald  J Trump, you can not mean both parts and although F Scott Fitzgerald famously postulated “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to  hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and  still retain the ability to functionI think both sides will fail to discern an intelligence and only call that “Gobbledygook.”

If all this “mumbo jumbo” is meant to make it look like he’s fulfilling a campaign pledge when he’s really not, does he really think he can fool the Israelis and their strong supporters here in the U S? They’re not stupid!

But there’s more.

Having convinced  many people that he really meant the first part – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu certainly seems to believe it – Trump added this to today’s announcement:

“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement. ”

Trump is saying he still believes he can be an “Honest Broker” whom both sides can trust despite the fact that he has sided with Israel on Jerusalem.

But who else will believe that? And if the United States has now become an advocate for one side’s  position rather than a mediator to help facilitate agreement forged by the two sides, who will take our place as a mediator in this  up-to-now intractable and deadly dispute?

Russia?

 

Albert Einstein Was Right – AGAIN!

In an earlier post, I quoted Albert Einstein’s saying that “the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” And then went on to argue that was certainly true when it comes to Donald J Trump.

Einstein’s more famous saying is the subject of my blog today – “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Which brings us to the Republican tax bill(s) which have now passed both Houses of Congress and after a Conference Committee “marriage” will be afflicted on the Nation and all of us in it.

Here is an article worth reading by economist Robert A McElvaine  who has made one of this main interests a study of our (and thanks to us, the World’s) great depression of the 1930s.

He says the Republican party policy of enriching the wealthy in the belief (hope) that the wealthy, thus further enriched, will “trickle down” their riches to those of us less fortunate was one of the major factors that brought on that great depression. And, he says, the good old GOP has never let go of its policy and is clearly at it again in the tax bill.

http://wapo.st/2AfjOcy?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.7b416eeb5af4

I remember many years ago having an amiable argument with Arthur Laffer, an economist who in 1979, drew a curve on a napkin at the old Occidental restaurant in Washington.

Laffer said the curve was to demonstrate that excessive taxation leads to killing the ability of business to create jobs (you kill the “goose” that lays the golden eggs of jobs) and if you lower taxes consumers have more to spend, businesses expand jobs to fill the need and in fact, with a lower tax rate since more people can now participate in the “good life,” you broaden the base of taxpayers and thus bring in enoung money to the treasury even with a lower rate.

Well that theory does make some sense but the thing is, at some point if you cut taxes, you have cut too much.

“Where,” I asked Laffer, “is that point?”

He didn’t know saying, in effect, we would know it when we saw it. Meaning when we had cut too much, we might then adjust the rates but of course if, like the legendary Titanic example, it might well be too late if we had cut too much.

Ronald Reagan’s team latched on to the Laffer theory and curve and Mr. Reagan used it during his successful 1980 presidential campaign. His Primary opponent Georg H W Bush called it “voodoo economics.” But Reagan was elected and pushed through a big tax cut.

Guess what?  After the first year, Reagan’s people having crunched the numbers looked into the “abyss” of the Laffer curve; they realized they had cut too much.

So they persuaded President Reagan we needed to raise fees for the use of National Parks and such, we needed to plug certain tax “loopholes” and (since you couldn’t get Mr. Reagan to sign on to actually raising the tax rates) you needed to put in place certain “revenue enhancers (ho, ho, a euphemism for “taxes”).

The president cheerfully signed on and one third of the big tax cut of 1981 was rescinded. But, it was not enough to keep three trillion dollars of deficit added to the National Debt by the time  Reagan left office (when Jimmy Carter left office the National Debt, accumulated since the birth of the nation, stood just under one trillion dollars).

And as Robert McElvaine says in his article, the GOP simply keeps doing the same thing again and again and again and expects the different result of “trickle down” tax cuts to help all the “little people” of the Country.

Or do they really expect it to eventually work? I think many of the Republicans who voted for the new tax bill(s) know better but simply want to take care of their donors selfish needs.

So, as we say here in the Southwest, “Pray for Rain” and while you’re at it, pray that whatever emerges as a new post-Trump GOP regains its sanity.

 

Michael Flynn Cops A Plea: Is Trump Trembling?

Oh, how sweet it is to replay Lt. General (USA Retired) Michael Flynn leading the chant of “lock her up” at the Republican Convention last year.  Put this on your browser address line, then enjoy.

“If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail,” he shouted from the podium. Wait a bit, General, wait a bit  You may get your turn.

But Flynn is not the main target here.

Clearly from what we know from the public prints he was almost certainly facing a possible indictment on other, more serious charges. Except he “bargained” for lighter treatment in return for information about others he had and was willing to disclose under oath if called on to do so.

Before Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed to “go easy” on Flynn (and his son?) in return for information offered he obviously evaluated it for it’s quality – how important in the overall investigation, how solid factually and against whom?

Surely not “three people in the mail room” Flynn can testify “J-walked” across Connecticut Avenue heading toward the Russian Embassy.

It would be naïve if one does not understand that the main targets in the effort to discover the truth about accusations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians are campaign officials on Flynn’s level or higher.

Ultimately this investigation must attempt to answer the question: Was there Trump Campaign collusion with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton and if so, did Donald J Trump himself participate in or condone it.

So, is Trump Trembling tonight? I don’t know.

If he isn’t, it is because he really is innocent of any illegal or improper involvement with Russian election tampering.

Or, if he is involved but isn’t trembling, that can only be because he is so “cock sure” of his ability to ride out any “storm” or to beat any “rap” that he is  confident the law or an outraged pubic majority cannot touch him.

Not him!

If it should be the latter, he is dead wrong. Our system of legal and public judgement works. As a reporter who covered Washington for fifty two years, I saw it work time and time again.

When Nixon first de-rided a “third rate burglary,” when Reagan first said there was “no foundation” to the story of selling Arms to Iran for the exchange of hostages, when Clinton first said he had never had sex with “that woman, Miss Lewinsky” the system forced the truth from them.

And there were many more instances in which I saw the System thwart the “high and  mighty’s”  attempt to escape truth and justice.

So, if Donald J Trump has done nothing illegal, he need not tremble because of information Flynn or anyone else gives Robert Mueller.

On the other hand, if he is involved in acts illegal or improper, no matter what he thinks he can get away with, I have news for him:

You can’t. Our system still works and you are already finished, just too vain or too stupid to know it.

 

Albert Einstein Was Right

Albert Einstein – what a brain, what a mind.

E=MC2, was he right? Does Energy Equal Mass Times the Speed of Light Squared? I suppose so, but how would I know? I got beyond the multiplication tables in school but not far beyond.

But I do know from experience and observation that Einstein was right when he observed:

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. “

Right, there is no limit to one’s stupidity (your faithful blogger here included).

Donald J Trump is many things – mean, uncaring, ignorant, narcissistic,  vengeful, vulgar, a liar and the list goes on into ad infinitum.

But above all else, Donald J Trump is stupid!

Why else would one man do so many things every day that, if left unchecked, will destroy this Country, destroy a way of life for most Americans that have made us the envy of the World, destroy himself?

Someone might say he is Evil, not Stupid, and is brilliantly executing a plan of destruction for destruction’s sake.

Not so.

Steve Bannon has a plan, is following a course  designed to destroy the Country as it exists today. Many of us think that in so doing Bannon is Evil.

But Donald J Trump has no plan; he is simply fumbling along from tweet to tweet, from stumble to stumble, from one incoherent thought to another, often contradictory, never firm, usually ludicrous and laughable. And since he is president, dangerous. But not by design.

At this point some of you may remember my initial promise that I intend to conduct a civil discussion of matters here and not call people “names.”

I have not called Donald J Trump a “name;” I have described his characteristics and actions as we can all see them. He is the things and has done the things I have described so let me lay out just a small amount of the evidence to back up what I say; if time and space permitted I could deliver volumes more.

Trump demands personal loyalty of the FBI director and when it is not forthcoming in the form of acquiesce in shutting down an Investigation, fires him.  When the Attorney General properly and on the advice of Justice Department ethics officials “recuses” himself from an Investigation, Trump castigates him in public and complains he is not being loyal to the president.  Those two official’s loyalty is owed to their oath to defend the Constitution, not to the president (does he not know this or simply not care).

Trump praises a House-passed repeal of the Affordable Care act, then tells associates it is “mean, cold hearted and a-son-of-a-bitch.” He demands the Congress repeal the Act no matter what happens to the Country just as long as he gets a “win.”

Trump works to expel the DACA children, then makes a deal with Democratic leaders to allow them to stay, then reverses himself  in the face of pressure from his Base.

Trump tells his Secretary of State he’s wasting his time trying to negotiate with North Korea then on his Asian trip declares he is making progress in negotiating with North Korea.

Trump says he believes Vladimir Putin is sincere in his denials Russia tried to interfere with our election, and calls the top U S Intelligence Chiefs who disagree “political hacks.” Only to grudgingly backtrack after the massive domestic “blowback” from such nonsense.

Trump says “I said it” when confronted with the Access Hollywood tape recording of his vulgar bragging that he grabs women by their private parts but now tells associates the tape is a fake that calls for an investigation.

Trump declares his predecessor in the Oval Office “bugged” his office building in New York. When asked for a scintilla of evidence to back up this accusation, he offers none but insists it is true.

Trump praises Philippine president Duterte who makes no effort to hide his disregard for law and due process when he encourages the murder of thousands of suspected drug dealers and political opponents. Trump’s spokes person says Trump briefly raised the subject of Human Rights in their talk; Duterte’s spokesman said it never came up.

Trump withdraws our Country from the Paris Climate Accord, the Pacific Trade Pact and  threatens to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iranian Nuclear Agreement. He demands that NATO members pay what they owe without apparently knowing that the commitment is to spend a certain percentage on their own military, not send a check to the NATO Headquarters. He threatens to withdraw the U S from NATO if they don’t.

Trump threatens the Constitutional safeguards of Freedom of Speech and the Press. He encourages demonstrators against him to be “roughed up,” calls all reporting he doesn’t like “fake news,” tweets mock pictures of himself destroying news organizations he doesn’t like. All the while repeating false stories and conspiracy theories, twice having been “dressed down” for so doing in matters concerning Britain by the British Prime Minister.

Trump says there are some “good people” among a group of self described Nazis and racial and homophobic bigots and says there is  “blame on both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville when such people marched.

Trump champions the cause of White Supremacy in a land built on the phrase E Pluribus Unam (does he know what that means or simply disagrees with its premise) and threatens to ban people from the Country on the basis of their religion (a threat to the “establishment clause” in the 1st Constitutional Amendment – does he know what that is or just doesn’t care).

Trump soils the splendor and dignity of the Office of President by his vulgarity of language (“Crooked” Hillary, “Liddle Bob” Corker) and by his violent hatred of his critics and opponents such as demanding that his political opponent Hillary Clinton be investigated and jailed (with no evidence shown to require it) and disparagement of John McCain, a true American hero, for being shot down while fighting for our Country, something Trump managed to avoid by obtaining five Vietnam war deferments.

Trump refuses to place his holdings in a truly blind trust but instead enjoys personally profiting in his businesses as a result of holding the presidential office.

Trump defends Roy Moore of Alabama from charges by four women of sexual misconduct by saying that Moore “flatly denies it.” Of course, that is Trump’s defense against the accusations of ten women that he sexual abused them.

Trump was the prime mover of the accusation that Barack Obama was not Constitutionally eligible to be president on the grounds that he was not born in the United States but in Kenya. Finally, Trump conceded Obama was born in the United States, claiming it was a Clinton aide who originated the accusation and that he, Trump, should be praised here at the end for ferreting out the falsity of the accusation. Period, end of story? Well, no, as those of us who used to be in the news business would say “This just in” – Trump is now telling associates that he still suspects that Obama was not born in the United States!

Trump lies – about the size of his inaugural crowd in the face of photographic evidence to the contrary, about the number of times he has been on the cover of Time magazine when the number is not in doubt, about his not benefiting from the tax bill when plainly he will, about his electoral college win as the biggest since Reagan (if you don’t count Bush 41, Clinton and Obama which were all bigger than Trump’s), in saying that “the FBI person reports directly to the President of the United States” when in fact he reports directly to the Attorney General, and on and on and on the lies. Or is it something else?

Is Trump delusional, mentally ill, does not realize he deals in fiction, not fact? Does not recognize that approximately two thirds of the Country thinks he is incompetent, a joke, is afraid of him, is dedicated to his removal from the presidency?

We are now in the “weeds” of personality disorder, mental illness and such, but whatever is going on behind the golden locks results in a finding of STUPIDITY.

And why is it stupid to do and say the things he does? Forget the rest of us, the Country, the World.

It is stupid because all that he is and does wars against the very things that clearly mean the most to him – to be a winner, to be thought smart, to be idolized, admired above all others, to go down in history as the Greatest, the most successful president this Country has ever seen. Move over Washington, stand aside Lincoln, sit back Roosevelt. Trump Triumphant!

He is working hard each day (unknowing, apparently) to make certain he will achieve none of that. Clearly, to date, he is according to American standards of competency, dedication to our values and decency, the worst president it has ever been our misfortune to have had.

Yes, Albert Einstein, Genius has it’s limits, Trump’s stupidity has none. It rolls on like an ocean and will consume him, destroy him (prey God, not the rest of us with him)

Trump’s Ocean (of Stupidity) as described in Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, will destroy him.

“Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll.  Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;  Man marks the earth with ruin; his control Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain  The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain   A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own, When, for a moment, like a drop of rain  He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.”

RIP Donald J Trump

When Men “Behave Badly” Can They Still Be Loved?

This morning the news came that NBC Today host Matt Lauer has been fired for “inappropriate  sexual behavior in the workplace.” A woman had come forward to report this to the NBC management on Monday. What she said Lauer had done that required his termination in management’s judgement, we do not know at this point

Today co-host Samantha Guthrie delivered the news of Lauer’s firing at the beginning  of the program. She was distraught; they had worked together for years in harmony and mutual affection.

I was struck by her anguished question after she delivered the news..

She asked “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? I don’t know the answer to that.”

Good question and no single or easy answer.

You could decide that no matter how you had felt before, the revelation of bad conduct requires the person be “cast out,” made to pay the price of banishment from society for misdeeds that can not be condoned or forgiven (in addition to any punishment that is required by a Court of Law).

Or, you might consider an alternative as described in the Bible, Luke 15:11-20-24 (KJV). Here Jesus tells the story, a parable, of how a son demanded  his inheritance from his father, left home, squandered it in wild living and when he had nothing left, not even food to eat, came begging back.

Jesus said:  “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

Which should it be for your friend Matt Lauer, Savannah? What punishment fits the crime. And what is love if it cannot be reconciled with a loved one’s misdeed? I can’t tell you, that’s up to you but you might think about the meaning of “love” and how in the case of the parable the Father reconciled his love for his son with his son’s misdeeds.

As the revelations against men who have “behaved badly” (or worse )finally, and properly, pour out from women who have suffered in silence for so long, there is in some quarters the cry across the land of a vengeful “off with his head,” no matter who, no matter what, no matter when, no matter how sincerely contrite the miscreant is.

That is wrong.

That certainly does not comply with any sense of justice  being meted out on an individual basis for individual wrong doing and it certainly can not be squared with the word “love.”


Yes, we are in a “sea change” when it comes to the way men must treat women – with respect and a sense of equality and certainly when it comes to sexual matters always with an unwavering adherence to mutual consent.

I’m not arguing here that all former sexual assaults or mistreatments should be forgiven or left unpunished. There is an accounting required.

I am arguing that the “punishment should fit the crime” on an individual basis and that  misdeeds or, if you will, “bad behavior” cannot always if ever require the withdrawal of love.

Or what is love?

 

 

 

 

Donald J Trump’s Accomplishments (to date)

Deroy Murdock , writing in the National Review, has compiled a list of Donald J Trump’s accomplishments under the title “This Thanksgiving, Thank Donald J Trump. And the best is yet to come.”

The list is quite impressive. Here is the link:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/454028/donald-trump-accomplishments-thanksgiving

I had never heard of Murdock because I do not regularly read the New York Post, the Washington Times, The National Review or the Orange Country Register where I see his columns are often featured (my loss).

I suppose those and similar publications believe him to be a keen analyst of our times perhaps because he is often marching to his own “drummer.”

For instance, Murdock apparently opposes the so-called “War on Drugs,” opposes Government intervention on behalf of Gay marriage, believes that human activity has not been proved as a major factor in climate change, believes that Saddam Hussein was involved in engineering the 9/11 attack on the U S and went on record calling the New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge shootings, involving the killing of innocent civilians by the NOPD and subsequent cover-up, a “magnificent and morally pristine use of force”.

If these are not his views, I will be glad to correct the record although many of the above he said in interviews whose video tape is available.

Still, there is no gainsaying that the many good things Murdock has listed in his National Review article have occurred in Trump’s brief time as president. We can argue that Trump doesn’t deserve all the credit (if any) and we can complain that a list of his defects might outweigh the good things but let’s face it, history will have to sort that out.

Reading Murdock’s list made me think of another World Leader who started off doing “good” things for the majority of his people. Including:

-Taming rampant inflation

-Bringing the unemployment rate down sharply

-Improving wages markedly

-Reopening shuttered factories

-Stepping up the manufacture of consumer goods, including automobiles for the middle class

-Vastly improving educational opportunities

-Modernizing the military

-Successfully achieving initial international recognition & cooperation for his Goals

-Hosting major international conferences and sporting events

-Renewing a sense of national pride in the citizenry.

All these were accomplishments at least on a par with Murdock’s list for Trump.

Of course, like Trump and in some ways similar to Trump, this dynamic Leader had a few flaws.

History records that after twelve years in power, it all ended badly for him and his people.

And about fifty to sixty million others.

November 22nd – A Memoir

Here it is again. Another anniversary of the day the World exploded for so manyof us with the ashes still heavy on our shoulders, the day my generation lost its innocence and all of us were Irish.

It was the late Daniel Patrick Monynihan, who was then an assistant Secretary of Labor in the Kennedy Administration, who said “You can’t be Irish without knowing that someday the World will break your heart.”

It was a slow Friday and Chet Curtis and I, two reporters working for the Washington CBS affiiate WTOP-TV, were sitting in the press’s front row of seats overlooking the U S Senate Chamber.  I had joined WTOP two weeks after Kennedy was Inaugurated and on that day in the Senate considered myself a news veteran (Ha, Ha, the arrogance and stupidity of youth).

Senator Edward Kennedy was the Presiding Officer (freshmen Senators pulled that duty when nothing much was going on) and Winston Prouty, Republican Senator from Vermont was droning on about a Library Services bill that was the business before the Chamber.

I can see what happened next as if it were happening before my eyes at this moment.

Suddenly a Senate Democratic aide named Richard Rydell rushed through the cloakroom door and spoke to Florida Senator Spessard Holland who was seated at his desk near the door. I’m sure I wasn’t paying much attention to this; Senate aides routinely came on the floor to talk to Senators. But in this case Holland got up from his chair and approached the podium where Edward Kennedy was seated.

Meanwhile, Rydell moved quickly to speak to Mike Mansfield, the Majority leader, and then to Everett Dirksen, the Minority leader who was seated across the center asile from Mansfield.

Rydell moved along the Republican side and spoke to New Jersey Senator Clifford Case. And about that time, Holland had reached the Podium and whispered to Edward Kennedy.

Kennedy abruptly closed his file notebook and rushed out; Hollard took his place as the Presiding Officer. I got a glimpse of Kennedy’s face and didn’t like what I saw.

Certainly by this time it was clear to anyone watching that something highly unusual was taking place.  I did what was certainly not permitted, I leaned over the press row railing and loudly hailed Senator Case.

“Senator Case, what’s going on,” I asked.

He replied “Cannon has been shot (later I’ll elaborate on this)”

I was shocked to hear that Nevade Senator Howard Cannon had been shot and moved quickly out of the Chamber into the adjacent hallway.

The door to the Radio and Television workspace Gallery was across the hall and Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire was just walking in for a routine television interview with someone else. I told him what Case had told me, “Cannon has been shot,” before running down stairs to the cloakroom where Senators were gathered around the wire machines reading the copy.

The first  word came from UPI, whose White House Correspondent Merriman Smith grabbed the only phone in the press car and dictated all he knew: “Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.” It went on the wire as a bulletin.

Within about two or three minutes, the motorcade had reached Parkland Hospital, and Smith ran up to Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who jumped on the back of the presidential limousine and kept Jackie Kennedy from falling  into the street.

“How is he Clint,” asked Smith.

“He’s dead,” replied Hill who had seen the body with its gaping head wound being carried into the Hospital. But Smith knew he could not send out that message without official confirmation.

Smith then dictated that the President had been wounded, ” perhaps seriously  (and then he added in a signal many in the cloakroom caught), perhaps fatally.” That was the news the Senators had when I got to the cloakroom and discovered who had actually been shot.

After a considerable, but understandable wait, Malcom Kilduff, Assistant White House press secretary, told the reporters the grim offical news. And UPI sent out a two word Flash (the highest wire service mesage alert): “President Dead.”

The Senate had recessed and Mike Mansfield had come up to the Radio and Television Gallery. He said he would not make any statement until he had confirmation from the White House. I called the White House for him and got Kennedy Assistant Ralph Dungan on the line. Dungan confirmed the news that Kennedy was dead (more about this later).

For me, during these early hours, I was aware of the terrible nature of what had happened, aware and shocked, but was not thinking of a  personal reaction. Several times I called in what I learned from the Senate and finally the assignment editor and I decided I should go to Andrews Air Force Base to witness the arrival of the 707 plane  numbered 26000, carrying the dead and  new presidents.

From outside the fence enclosing the apron where the plane parked (but quite close visually) I watched Robert Kennedy board the plane, then the casket and Jackie Kennedy and Bobby ride down in the moveable ramp that carried the party to the ground.

An ambulance bearing the body quickly departed. I’m sure there must have been police escorts but at the point the ambulance came out of the gate from the apron my only recollection – embedded in my memory – is that of Jackie Kennedy  riding in the front passenger seat beside the driver, looking striken as  if in a trance. We know she was still wearing the suit with her husband’s blood on it but I didn’t see any of that.

President Lyndon Johnson gave a brief, appropriate television address expressing the anguish the Nation felt and promising to carry on.

I returned to Broadcast House, the name of the building which housed WTOP-AM-FM-TV, and participated in our local “cut ins” within the larger CBS network coverage.

After work we were all exhausted, no one went out for a drink as far as I knew; we just wanted to go home and sleep.

The next morning I woke up and cried.

You have all seen onTelevision or read about  the next three days and I have nothing much to add.

The casket to Capitol Hill with the riderless horse, the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the Funeral Procession from the White House with Le Grand Charles de Gaulle, President of Franch and other world leaders marching solemly up the street to the Cathedral, little John John saluting his dead father and the burial and taps below Robert E Lee’s home in Arlington Cemetary where the “Eternal Flame” burns brightly to this day.

For me and for so many other Americans it was an event that broke our hearts. One which I’m convinced altered for the worst American and thus World History.

Just as Lincoln’s assasination prevented his plan for generous reconciliation with the South from going into effect, Kenendy’s assasination led to a terrible full fledged plunge into Vietnam rather than a withdrawal that he had told friends he would undertake once re-elected in 1964.

Vietnam is costing us still.

Today, John F Kennedy lives in our memories, forever handsome, forever young. Yes, his flaws eventually exposed, but for me the flaws were overshawdowed by the spirit and optimism he projected into an  ageing Country, lifting us for a time into a new and exciting age and by an unfilled promise of greatness.

I saw him both at the White House and  elsewhere several times but only as a local reporter on the fringe of the press crowd. I attended  a few of his press conferences held in the State Department auditorium but sat in the back and didn’t have the courage to try to ask him a question.

Once, as  he was leaving the Rose Garden after some routine ceremony whose purpose I can’t remember (perhaps Teacher of the Year) we exchanged a few words which he initiated. They were really of no importance.

Except to me.

Later I got to know several of Kennedy’s aides quite well, particuarly his press secretary Pierre Salinger and his principal speech writer Ted Sorenson (both now deceased).

I had dealt with them both, particularly Pierre, when they were in the White House and later became good friends with Pierre when some years later he joined ABC News as a senior roving correspondent.

Sorenson  wrote Kennedy’s speeches and most of us believe he was the author – first on the campaign trail, then for the Inaurgural address – of the famous line “Ask not what your Country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your Country.” But when he was asked if it was true that he was the true author of that line his reply was always “Ask not.”

Sorenson once told me an interestng story (which he may well have told others) about what happened when the first Kennedy/Nixon debate was over – that was the debate that many believed enabled a calm, articulate Kennedy faceing a sweating Nixon, to win the election.

Sorenson said that when the debate was over Kennedy couldn’t wait to call his father to ask how his father thought he had done. But there was no privacy in the Chicago studio so Kennedy and Sorenson went down to the street and found a pay phone.

However, to get the operator you had to drop a coin in the phone’s change slot and Kennedy, who notoriously never carried any money, didn’t have a coin. Sorenson says he lent Kennedy a quarter.

“Did he pay your back,” I asked Sorenson.

“Nope,” said Ted, “when the call was over he just reached in the return tray and put it in his pocket. I’m still waiting (added Sorenson with a loving grin).”

And now, to add to the two matters on which I promised to elaborate.

First – Case told me “Cannon has been shot.”

That’s what I thought I heard  him say and some time later when I ran into Senator Case I confessed to him I had gotten it wrong. I said it must have been that my mind simply just didn’t want to accept the horrible truth.

Case replied, “Oh, I know how the mind can do that. You say you thought I had said “Cannon?” Guess what. That’s what I told you, that’s what I thought Rydell had told me!”

Wow.

But there’s more.

Much, much later, Senator Proxmire told me that when I had broken the terrible news to him as he was walking to the Radio Television Gallery door he thought I had told him Cannon had been shot.

“Funny  how at a time like that the mind plays such tricks,” said Proxmire.

“It certanly is,” I replied but am ashamed to confess, like a coward let it go at that.

Now, as to phoning the White House that day for Mike Mansfield.

When Oliver Stone’s movie JFK was released, I did a lengthy story about it with him for ourABC Magzine program “PrimeTimeLive.”  Stone had never visited JFK’s grave so I took him there as well as interveiwing him about his film.

Oliver Stone is a great film maker but in the case of JFK being so good is dangerous in that this film is not factual but if you don’t know that from other sources you can be misled down a path of ignorance.

Stone’s JFK paints a picture of top military officers and, he implies, perhaps  Lyndon Johnson conspiring to kill Kennedy. He features the New Orlean’s District Attorney’s effort to discredit the “single bullet” theory of the Warren Commission Report and the DA’s effort to involve a local New Orleans man in the Assasination plot.

It is all brilliantly produced nonsense. And I knew of my own personal knowledge at least one thing that Stone got wrong in dispensing  this nonsense.

The move says that as part of that Plot, for one hour after the shots were fired none of the telephones worked in Washington D.C., none of them- Ah Ha!

On camera, I asked Stone whether that was true. He said it was absolutely true.

I then told him that from a land line  phone on Capitol Hill (there were no cell phones in that time) I made a dozen calls during that first hour, including one to the White House for Senator Mansfield. The phones worked.

“We tried to check everything,” said Stone, “I’m sorry if we got it wrong.”

Oh, Oiver, remember “close” doesn’t count excapt in horseshoes  and handgrenades.

Particularly, when it comes to the Assasination of a President.

 

 

Second Thoughts on Al Franken

I wrote a blog when the first woman came forward to accuse Senator Al Franken of sexual assault and in it quoted a NYT op ed writer named Micelle Goldberg. She said that though she had admired Franken and thought he was a good Senator when she learned of his transgression she decided he should resign his office and be replaced by a woman. Ms.Goldberg said that was the lesson for poweful men who sexually abused women: “We will replace you.”

I argued that while I agree  men should now be “called to account” for their past bad conduct and pay a price, that price (punishment) should fit the individual crime – Weinstein gets the book thrown at him which may include time in prison if the allegations of felonious rape are proved but a Franken’s mis-treatment of women (as far as the evidence to date suggests) is not on the same level and thus the punishment ought not to be anywhere near the same.

I complained that some women who were speaking out in proper denuciation of this unacceptable male conduct seemed to be advocating an”off with their heads” punishment for every man who had abused a women no  matter who, when and to what degree.

Now, I see, that Micelle Goldberg in her latest NYT op-ed column has had second thoughts.

Bascially after thinking it over she has concluded that the Franken who represented her overall views in the Senate might for that reason still be needed in the Senate notwithstanding his transgresson.

Good for you, Ms. Goldberg.

First, you recognize that our first reaction to bad news, to a troubling development, is a reaction that often pushes us to advocate an extreme position and after clam, mature deliberation is not one we truly mean or want to see probative.

And second, life and judgement is usually a balancing act. “This” weighed against “that” and where does the balance fall.

Ms. Goldberg, having now weighed the “good”and the “bad” of Franken and his transgression, is suggesting that for her his remaining in the Senate is preferable to the punisment she first demanded.

Again, good for you, Ms. Goldberg.

Others may disagree with your new analysis but it is one you have worked through calmly, considering which is more important to you – demanding a “death sentence” for Franken or calling out his mis-conduct but finding his continuation as a Senator valuable to women and therefor ought not  be ended.

Here is the link to Ms.Goldberg’s article.

Moving forward, as more and more men are “outed” for thier past misconduct, I say that worthy effort should continue but at the same time we must get on to other business.

A new understanding of how the old male customs toward treatment of women were wrong has been established. Thankfully, we are never going back to accepting sexual assaults on women as being okay or just “locker room” misdermeanors.

So, let us now turn our attention to other pressing matters.

The Republican Tax Bills must be modified, must be turned from being a “give away”  to the rich, certainly any provision to repeal the Mandate on which the Affordable Care Act depends must be dropped.

The prospective repeal of Net Neutrality Rules by the FCC must be stopped.

The under the radar confirmation of scores of Right Wing Appeals Court Judges must be exposed and deflected, if possible.

Above all, the daily resistance and opposition to Donald J Trump and his merry band of thugs must be continued, its energy not reduced by the need to deal with other problems that need correction.

I’m glad Ms.Goldberg has had second thoughts about the punishment for Al Franken’s mistreatment of women. But there must be no second thoughts when it comes to the absolute necessity to end the Trump presidency by legal and Constitutial means.

The continued safety and happy life for all of us -and that certainly includes women-depend on it.

The Punishment Should Fit The Crime

Men everywhere are running for cover as women begin to speak out about the sexual assaults they and their fellow females have suffered, until now mainly in silence.

There is a general sense with which I agree that the transgressors should be punished. There is no statute of limitations for being a pig!

But what’s a fair punishment? Surely not the cry as is heard now in some quarters of “off with their heads,” no matter who, no matter what, no matter when!

In today’s chase of yesterday’s pigs, are there no distinctions, no levels of punishment, no sense of individual punishment fitting the individual crime?

In the case of Harvey Weinstein, the answer in easy. He is publicly accused of acts that are already covered by the criminal law and if charges are brought to court, as seems probable, he will be tried by a jury or judge and if convicted sentenced on the basis of both guidelines and individual factors outlined in his probation report. Others who may be charged with criminalized conduct will be treated in the same way.

But what about just the “pigs?”

What about Kevin Spacey, Michael Oreskes, Roy Price, John Best, Mark Halperin, Roy Moore, Al Franken and scores of other men whose accusers have come forward to demand justice? Should they all lose their jobs, their livelihood, their homes and family, forever cast out from societies embrace?

Take the case of former comedian, now Senator Al Franken. All the readers of this blog surely know the acts he committed against Leeann Tweeden, a former model and news anchor in Los Angeles when they were together on a USO tour in 2006, when Franken was still only a comedian.

What Franken did he admits was wrong and he is ashamed of his conduct. Certainly, confession of wrong doing does not excuse it.

Question: Should he leave the Senate, either through voluntary resignation or expulsion? Michelle Goldberg, in her New York Times column today thinks he should.

Ms. Goldberg says until this incident came to light, she was totally on Franken’s side because of his liberal views, particularly his work on behalf of women’s issues. He was the type of person she says she admired and was very glad to see in the Senate. Then she heard the accusation and saw the picture and that all changed.

She says she considered the question of fairness, weighing the old “good” against the new “bad,” confessing that for a time she waivered but finally came to her decision, as written at the end of her column:

“The question isn’t about what’s fair to Franken, but what’s fair to the rest of us. I would mourn Franken’s departure from the Senate, but I think he should go and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat. The message to the men in power about sexual degradation has to be clear: we will replace you.”

Whoa. Ms. Goldberg is certainly welcome to her view on what’s fair but to hold that Franken should not be considered in the matter of fairness is wrong. When she says the question is what’s fair to the rest of us, who does she mean by the word “us” – men and women or just women? Is she trying to teach powerful men a lesson or exact a revenge for their misdeeds?

If resignation for Franken’s past misdeeds is a fair price, what about another federal office holder named Bill Clinton?

New York Democratic Senator Kristen Gillebrand says he should have resigned the presidency because of his affair with Monica Lewinski. Well, he was Impeached and Tried in the Senate on charges stemming as a result of that affair and acquitted in the Senate because the public (including the majority of women) didn’t want him out.

And what about Donald J Trump who bragged that he often grabbed women by their (most private part)? Franken planted a sloppy, unwanted kiss and took a picture of his hands on a woman’s clothed breasts. How does that equate with grabbing many women’s most private part?

If Franken is forced to resign shouldn’t Trump go also? Never mind the fact that in the 2016 presidential election Trump received forty two percent of the female vote. What were they thinking? And what do they think about Franken?

The ramifications of all this are many and not easy to square but “all of us” should beware of over zealousness with a “one size fits all” attitude toward punishment for all past sexual misdeeds. I repeat, an individual’s punishment should fit an individual’s crime.

And for goodness sakes, women are not best served by becoming “avenging angels” on behalf of their gender as Ms. Goldberg suggests when she says the message to men in power about sexual degradation is that we women will replace you.

I believe (without having taken a poll) that the vast majority of American men – fathers, husbands, sons, brothers – join women in wanting this permissiveness of sexual assault on them stopped and those who have committed it be made to pay a price.

But if somehow this turns into gender class warfare, I’m afraid many men will know which side of the barricade they will want to be on. And that would serve none of us – men or women – any good.